Air Traffic Controller Discussion With a Global Perspective
By Dhruv Kalra 878508
Ross Carlson 887155 wrote:So unless we can get consistent weather on the pilot's side (and again, someone needs to do the testing ... we may already be "close enough") then weather overlays on the scope are effectively just eye candy, and, in my opinion, not worth the engineering cost.

Understandable. So, if we were to take a crack at building a test regimen, what sorts of empirical data points would you be after, and how can we get the ball rolling?
By Ross Carlson 887155
Dhruv Kalra 878508 wrote:So, if we were to take a crack at building a test regimen, what sorts of empirical data points would you be after, and how can we get the ball rolling?

I suppose step 1 would be to list the popular weather engines. Obviously there's the various flavors of Active Sky. I'm not sure what others are out there. (I've only used Active Sky and now ASN myself.)

Then we need to know if those engines all pull real world precipitation weather radar return data in order to determine placement of clouds in the sim. If they don't, then they're just generating clouds randomly based on the precip info in the closest METAR, and we can stop there.

One thing I'm not sure of here is what happens if Active Sky is configured to pull VATSIM weather. (If that's even still a feature.) As I understand it, when that feature is enabled, AS pulls METARs from VATSIM for the departure and destination fields. When that happens, and there is precipitation noted in the METAR, does AS randomly place the appropriate type of clouds somewhere around the field, and does this override any precipitation radar data that it pulls from a real world source? If it does override real world precip data, then I suppose we can just advise users to NOT enable that feature. Since VATSIM METARs come from the real world anyway, that feature seems kind of pointless. (Maybe it's useful in parts of the world where VATSIM's METAR sources are delayed or unreliable, causing a mismatch with real-world weather?)

If we can get by all that, and we know that the popular weather engines are pulling real world precip radar data, then the next step is to determine how accurately the engine can place cloud formations in the sim. This is where things get fuzzy. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that the sim doesn't give developers very good control over the placement of clouds. This is where we would need to do some testing. We'd have to try each weather engine in the same location on several different computers each and see what we get. Probably the low-hanging fruit here is to start with the most popular engine (ASN) and check the consistency of cloud placement across many different computers all running the latest version of ASN, all with their aircraft placed near an area of known precipitation. (Something strong enough to show returns on SkyVector, for comparison.) If it's consistent within ASN, then we can move on and test to see if it is consistent across other weather engines. If it's not even consistent within ASN, then we're done.

Obviously, the definition of "consistent" here is somewhat subjective, but I don't think it's reasonable to try to come up with actual tolerance values. We'll need to make a judgement call based on what we see in the sims.
By Simon Kelsey 810049
#504388 Here's a couple of images of the ASN map side-by-side with the Skyvector radar image. It's slightly awkward because the ASN map is presented at an odd oblique angle, but hopefully you can see you're looking at roughly the same things in each image.

Northern UK:


Whilst it's obviously not a perfect matchup, I'd say that the basic outline and position of the highest intensity areas matches up fairly well.

Incidentally, that's with VATSIM weather turned on: I'll turn it off and see what, if any, difference there is.

Edit: here's Cuba and the south of Florida with VATSIM weather on:

And with it off:

Not a colossal amount of difference but, again, I'd say the general pattern matches up reasonably well.
By Thomas Flanary 835147
#504404 As a real life controller, the weather NOT matching what the pilot sees and what the radar sees is actually realistic. There are hundreds of times I've called weather and the pilot says, "I don't see anything out there" or I call weather at the 10 oclock and it's actually at the 1 oclock.

WARP updates are only updated 15 minutes. My nexrad on the wall is faster, but I can't see where the planes are in reference to it.

I would fully support adding a weather layer to VATSIM, atleast it adds a degree of complexity to the center traffic, allowing you to call weather and allow pilots to "deviate around it". And just like real life, you'll have the occasional pilot go 30 miles out of his way because his weather doesn't match, but atleast you're adding that additional layer of realism. Currently on center in VATSIM, once they're up there, there's really nothing to do. Minor sequencing at best.
By Andrew Doubleday 844751
#504450 I concur with the general opinion of most here. Weather has been something I've wanted to see for a long time on scope. Even if it's not 100% accurate, adds a degree of realism that would enhance the experience.
By Nick Warren 813047
#504636 I hope this thread doesn't slowly fade away into the unresolved, because I think there has been some good dialogue in here. I am in the camp, as it sounds others are too, that putting the NEXRAD overlay on the STARS and ERAM products may be a good thing to boost some realism and a different level of interaction. I would rather see a consistent NEXRAD display among controllers rather than it be dependent on how it is going to display from one simmer to the next using product A vs. product B. I appreciate you being somewhat open to this Ross. I don't know how much the suggested testing will help. I personally would love just to see the NEXRAD injected into the software with the option to turn on and off perhaps in different levels. However, if the only way, as I said in my initial post "the juice is worth the squeeze" is to clearly define that there is empirical benefit through what simmers see, then I hope we can find a solid test group and get started and not let this idea die.
By Josh Glottmann 1275389
#505003 Right now I'm having a slight issue with SkyVector.
It seems that you have to refresh the page every time you want to update the radar feed (and then subsequently turn on the radar again in "Layers").

Is there any way around this, or an alternative solution, it's just a bit of a bother to refresh the page every 15 minutes and turn it back on again.
By Camden Bruno 1253785
Josh Glottmann 1275389 wrote:Right now I'm having a slight issue with SkyVector.
Is there any way around this, or an alternative solution

Assuming you're aware of this, but if not, here ya go! I use this combined with SkyVector. That way I can get a reference as to where the aircraft is in relation to the weather. From there, I can check SkyVector for further information on real-world PIREPs, SIGMETs, etc.
By Josh Glottmann 1275389
Camden Bruno 1253785 wrote:Assuming you're aware of this, but if not, here ya go! I use this combined with SkyVector. That way I can get a reference as to where the aircraft is in relation to the weather. From there, I can check SkyVector for further information on real-world PIREPs, SIGMETs, etc.

Been a while since I looked at this.... didn't realize it had NEXRAD, thanks. Any idea how often this updates?
By Steve Galasso 811389
#505421 In real life, I try to emphasize if the intensity of the weather will increase deeper in a larger cell. For example, "I'm depicting moderate to extreme precipitation 11 to 12 o'clock, 50 miles, cell is 40 miles in diameter with larger areas of extreme precipitation at the eastern edge of the cell".
By Toby Rice 1245046
#507510 Thanks for this information, Zachary! Very good to joggle our ATC minds in areas that we generally don't step into.

I was discussing this with a friend, Matthew Campbell (ZJX C1), and he mentioned that the example you used must be ZAB-specific, since certain areas of information slightly differed from the base 7110.65 phraseology example.

We noticed in the 7110.65 that various examples of this phraseology include (or leave out) the moving direction of the weather, as well as the speed, tops, and depth. I'm assuming what you posted derived from the 7110.65 2-6-4, interpreted for ZAB ARTCC operations, is this correct?

Either way, it's perfectly acceptable to include or leave out tid bits of information...even the 7110.65 examples do not include everything! It's facility specific, anyway. Both ways work, as long as the basic information is passed to the pilot.

Just our 2 cents.

Thanks again for this informative post!